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Help for a Navicular Horse

Learn tips from a trusted veterinarian for diagnosing a navicular horse.

Journal photo.


I believe my horse is becoming navicular. What is the best thing I can do to make sure he is comfortable and healthy? He is my only rope horse, and I don't want anything to happen to him.


Navicular disease refers to a group of symptoms associated with foot pain in horses. With the advances of equine imaging abilities -- especially contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CECT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -- the veterinary community has come to learn that there are many different causes for foot pain in horses and many different navicular diseases.

For your horse, I would recommend having your veterinarian come and examine him. He will probably do a physical examination, then watch him move (usually in a straight line, but also on a longe line, preferably on a harder surface), and if your horse is showing any evidence of lameness, he will discuss with you the need to confirm that the feet are the source of the lameness. This is done by applying hoof testers and performing a nerve block. If your horse has foot pain, he will proceed with imaging modalities such as radiographs and, potentially, ultrasound, which is most common. Also when available, affordable and needed, advanced imaging techniques such as CECT and MRI provide a plethora of information that is extremely helpful for the formulation of a treatment plan.

If your horse is not lame but you are still concerned, radiographs might still be helpful to gain information and potentially get some additional guidance for shoeing.

--Dr. Omar Maher, New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center, member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners

The American Quarter Horse Foundation helps fund equine research in a variety of areas, including navicular. Find out how you can help.

*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.